Taking a 15-day holiday for the first time. Planning to trek for 10 days for the first time. Very excited about going after the dream of seeing Everest!
Sat 5 Apr:
(Flight to Kathmandu)
Great flight: ate, read, slept!
KTM airport was like old Delhi airport.
Everyone speaks Hindi!
Asked the currency exchange guy about best local sim.
Asked the sim guy about best place to find cheap hotels.
Found one in the market.
Room service was veg burger from the street corner!
My unpacking reminded me of Jack Reacher and his folding tooth brush 🙂
Sun 6 Apr:
Great day in Kathmandu!
Got my trekking permit sorted!
Sunday is not a holiday here
Walked around the much-hyped Darbar Square; everyone was selling something…
The monkey temple at swoyambhu was an experience: 360′ views of the city, beautiful songs of worship, awesome temples, great weather…
Lunch of Daal Bhaat – Nepal’s staple food!
Flying to Lukla and starting the trek tomorrow 🙂
Mon 7 Apr:
(Flight to Lukla, trek to Phakding)
Excited about the 0830 to Lukla, got up at 0500, checked out at 0545, found breakfast at 0600, reached airport at 0700… found out that KTM airport was closed due to fog, first two flights of 0630 and 0730 had not taken off. I’m told my 0830 taking off any time today is unlikely. I say ‘yay, let the adventures begin here in KTM!’
I got really lucky: they put me on the earlier flight when one of the passengers couldn’t be found! Later I learnt that my original flight never took off due to weather.
An amazing 14-seater plane. Every seat a window seat. I was lucky to be on the left side where all the mountain views were!
I finally decided to get guide/porter so as not to risk being alone in the mountains if something were to happen. He carries my backpack too, shows me the cheapest places to eat and stay.
The trek from Lukla to Phakding was about 4 hours, through beautiful villages, and a gorgeous river in the valley. I decided to trek further and get away from the touristy and online town of a Phakding. And found a little piece of heaven called Toktok. A small lodge owned and maintained by a friendly Nepalese family.
Tue 8 Apr:
(Trek to Namche Bazar)
Great breakfast with the Nepalese family who owned the lodge:
Sherpa tea made with butter, salt, flour and some herbs, actually warmed me up instantly.
Got up at 5, breakfast at 6, started the trek at 8.
It was a tough 6-hour trek, uphill all the way, but with beautiful breaks for tea, lunch, rest or the breathtaking views of the mountains, snow covered peaks and the river which has never left us from Lukla.
I’ve never walked, even on plain surface, for 6 hours in a day. And this was all uphill, sometimes rocky steps, sometimes just inclined dirt path. My feet aren’t strong enough, back is not fit enough… all the muscles and joints were aching within 2 hours! There were times I wanted to give up and turn around. And I’d tell myself ‘just one step at a time’ or ‘let’s take a 5-minute break and see’ or I’d think of the feeling when I’ll see Everest in a couple of days, or I’d think of the hot shower and nap and coffee at Namche Bazar.
Well, I finally made it to Namche around 2. But walked another half hour up and down the hill, looking for the cleanest, cheapest, best lodge with happy hosts and great views. And I got lucky! I’m half dead, but never been happier 🙂
All the photos are taken with iPhone, and this blog also updated through the WordPress app on iPhone. Traveling without a notebook computer for the first time in 17 years!
Wed 9 Apr:
(First views of Everest!!)
Cold cold night!
Got up at 6, and saw this from my window:
I was in the kitchen of the lodge by 0630, chatting with the Nepalese kids making tea and breakfast, and warming myself!
I’d abandoned my daily itin on day 1, to be more open to surprises, as long as I see Everest. I had a few choices today:
A. Give my body some rest. No trekking. Enjoy local food and chatting with the locals. So I’m better prepared tomorrow.
B. Trek to Dongboche for 6 hours from where I’ll see Everest the day after. Half way flat, half way uphill.
C. Trek 2 hours to Mount Everest View Hotel. Really tough, uphill trek – my guide makes a 90′ gesture when he explains it. This was not in my itin due to the level of difficulty, but I’d see Everest in 2 hours from now!
So guess what I did: I saw Everest!
This was a 2- hour trek up, an hour of admiring the awesome Everest, and 2-hour trek down (as bad as going up!)
So what do I do next? Locals tell me Dongboche is a good trek if i go all the way to the base camp, otherwise I’ll see a similar view that I’ve seen today. So I might explore other mountains in the region for the next two days before starting the trek back!
I didn’t realize there was more joy in store for me today…
It got very cold this evening, and shopping for a jacket turned out to be an adventure on it’s own. Either no size or no black or too warm or too light or too expensive. Soon all the shops in the street knew me as the impossible customer. Finally found my bargain at this store where everyone was also keen to practice Hindi with me and also take lots of photos :
The next highlight was the secret local Nepalese restaurant which fulfilled all three conditions: no tourists, food tasted ten times better, prices five times lower! And the bonus were the wonderful conversations about life in Nepal, families, kids, work… Lucky me!
The best part of today was a total surprise: a sky full of stars and the half moon lighting up the snow covered peaks. It was magical!
Thu 10 Apr:
(Namche to Thame)
The plan was to trek up to Khumjung or Tengboche, and see the same bit of Everest again. I know there’s always a third choice which isn’t so obvious. So I asked my guide, my friend at the jacket shop and my friend at the coffee shop:
What’s the other place within 6 hours trek from here which isn’t so popular, perhaps because it doesn’t have any well known mountains, but it has it’s own unique beauty? All three of them said the same word: Thame (pronounced Thaa-may). They said it’s a small village surrounded by white mountains; weather is unpredictable; no network at all! And the trek is beautiful.
And I’m so glad I opted for this ‘road less traveled’. It was a 5-hour beautiful but tough trek; the place was out of this world; weather was very hot when I got there at 1230, but got freezing cold by 1600. Then it started snowing and continued off and on throughout the night.
I had daal bhat for dinner. After the few other guests and guides went back to their rooms, I stayed near the fire in the middle of the dining room and had a great conversation with the Sherpa family who owned the lodge. As usual, we talked about family, kids, life… and they offered their special hot lemon tea on the house! It’s freezing…
Fri 11 Apr:
(Thame to Namche)
I got up this morning with an awesome view of the village covered in snow:
I started the trek back to Namche right after a breakfast of Sherpa tea and fried eggs. It’s amazing how the same mountains and peaks look so different at different times of the day, depending on the sunlight and the clouds.
Downhill trek was as tough as uphill, testing the strength of the knees and calf muscles, while still putting lots of pressure on the back. Yes, I often asked myself why am I putting myself through so much pain 🙂
I reached Namche with aching joints, but had a relaxed afternoon, catching up with friends at the coffee shop and jacket shop. Also uploaded my daily 2-minute videos on YouTube, though they were intended as my personal diary. Looking forward to a rest day, and my 49th birthday, tomorrow in Namche.
Sat 12 Apr:
(Rest in Namche)
Today is my 49th birthday!
I got up with mixed feelings: gratitude for a great life, with no regrets; excitement and optimism for everything I want to do and be in the coming years; wonder for how much time I’ve left in this world… then the best thing happened: a Skype call from Salma to wish me a happy birthday and to say how much she loves me! And I saw beautiful messages from family and friends. At that moment nothing else mattered 🙂
It snowed all morning and got unbearably cold, but incredibly beautiful!
During lunch I met an incredible 21-year old Indian girl who climbed the Everest last year and is on her way to climb Lhotse, the 4th tallest mountain in the world. I did a short interview with her that will inspire anyone who watches it. Watch it on YouTube.
When I visited the coffee shop to chat with my Nepalese friends, I was told about a cake being baked and a birthday party being organized for me, so ‘I don’t feel home sick’. I was touched to my core. I decided to get a shave and look my best for the party.
The party was nothing short of spectacular: we got my other friends from the jacket shop, student group from Cardiff, and my guide to join us. The chocolate cake was divine! Few of the friends came with Khatas (the good-luck silk muffler they put around my neck) and gifts, despite the short notice! The Cardiff group sang happy birthday in Welsh (video coming up soon)! The highlight was the Nepalese rock dance performed by another guide (video coming…)!
Sun 13 Apr:
(Namche to Phakding)
I left Namche early morning, making three short stops in the bazaar to say bye to my friends. The downhill trek was tough but the scenery was beautiful, with snow on the sides and rooftops.
Stopped for lunch at the family lodge in Toktok, where I had stayed a night on my way up. Took me six hours to reach Phakding. My body was tired and aching, but the mind and soul were refreshed and recharged!
Once I got a room in Phakding, I went out for a walk and spent a few hours in a small coffee shop, chatting with the 22-year old owner who runs the coffee shop, bakery and a 20-room lodge. Her brothers and parents run few other lodges in Namche and KTM. Everyone has a story to tell!
Dinner was my favorite Daal Bhaat at the lodge, done by 7. Some conversation with the lodge owner – excited about seeing her son in the US and daughter in Sydney next month – then off to bed by 9. A very complete day all in all 🙂
Mon 14 Apr:
(Phakding to Lukla)
Morning routine hasn’t changed much: wake up by 0600, ready and in the kitchen of the lodge by 0630, breakfast done by 0700, trek started by 0730. It was a beautiful day, not too cold, not too warm! The trek was spectacular, with lots of beautiful villages on the way.
Reached Lukla in 4 hours instead of 5-6! After getting myself a room in a lodge near the airport, I ventured into the small beautiful village and found this really cozy coffee shop with great views of the mountains, and real good coffee!
The village walk included a game of Carrom with the locals – I lost very badly! And a chat with an old woman who offered to clean my boots. Then it started drizzling and everyone ran indoors, except some kids and me 🙂
Tue 15 Apr:
(Lukla to KTM)
One of the best things this week was catching the sunrise shining on the snow peaks. There’s something very mystic and spiritual about it that I can’t describe. This morning at Lukla was no different.
I walked to the airport from my lodge; reached at 0600 for the flight at 0700. I haven’t checked but they say Lukla Airport is one of the 10 Most Dangerous Airports in the world! I couldn’t find anything dangerous, except the smell from the toilet. There’s a very short runway, and the plane takes off just before the big slope at the end. Quite a thrill!
Today, I’d a to-do list in KTM:
a. Get foot reflexology
b. Eat at Mera’s Restaurant
c. Buy Nepalese folk music
d. Visit Civic Mall
e. Do emails
All done. Also watched a movie at the mall. Feeling super relaxed and happy 🙂